Category Archives: worship

Worship=Life Podcast

I want to invite you to subscribe to my brand new Worship=Life podcast. Each episode, we’ll explore the nuts and bolts of worship ministry in today’s church – the technological, the visual, the musical, and the spiritual.

My goal is to help worship leaders develop their ministries, their leaders, their teams, their environments to provide the best possible opportunities for God-honoring worship in their churches. I’ll share what I’ve learned over the years, as well as what I’m in the process of learning. I’ll bring in experts to share their wisdom with you as well.

In the first episode, I begin a series on ministry structure, starting with the values our ministries embrace. Check the episode out at the link above. I’d love to get your feedback!

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My Favorite Christmas Albums – 2016

Back in 2010, I wrote about my favorite Christmas songs and albums. (You can check it out here.)

Six years is long enough! So, today, I’m updating you on some of my favorite Christmas albums. I’d love to hear what your favorites are, so leave some comments! And even better, I put together a Spotify playlist so you can enjoy them too.

  1. Christmas… From the Realms of Glory by Bebo Norman – Bebo Norman may be retired, but he remains one of the absolute best songwriters in CCM (just give a listen to the cut “Deeper Still” from his album Ten Thousand Days). If you listened to Bebo back in his indie days, you may understand this: Christmas… From the Realms of Glory sounds like it came from his heart more than anything else I’ve heard from him.  With simple instrumentation – acoustic guitar, piano, melodica, hammer dulcimer – the record is a masterpiece of warm, introspective, Americana pop. Highlights: “Born to Die,” “Come and Worship,” “The Rebel Jesus”
  2. Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson – Being in ministry can get tough sometimes. The stress can be overwhelming, especially at Christmas time. A few years ago, I hit one of those walls, and this album got me through it. Peterson and his collaborators – among them Jill Phillips, Andrew Osenga, and Ben Shive – weave a folk-pop tapestry that brings the story of Scripture to life – from creation to Christmas. From the beautiful “Labor of Love” to the silly “Matthew’s Begats,” this is a special album. Highlights: “Labor of Love,” “Deliver Us,” “Matthew’s Begats”
  3. Advent Christmas EP, Vol. 2 by Future of Forestry – So you’re probably noticing a theme among my favorite Christmas albums – serenity. I love the mellow, organic, ambient sounds and Eric Owyoung’s honest voice. Those are the things that make this EP one of the best. Highlight: “The Earth Stood Still”
  4. Silver City by Falling Up – If you remember Falling Up from their early days, you might think, “That doesn’t really sound like Jud’s kind of band.” And you’d be right. But over the years their sound evolved into something more experimental and ambient. That led to their 2013 album Silver City, a collection of inventively arranged Christmas songs and a few originals. There’s energy, contemplation, cool melodies, Jesus, and little bit of sci-fi. Highlights: “Emanuel,” “Sugar Plum Fairy,” “The Little Robot”
  5. Christmas by Michael W. Smith – High-church, classical Christmas album with classic Smitty touches, and it’s pretty flippin’ amazing. Still one of my favorites. Highlights: “First Snowfall,” “All Is Well,” “Gloria”

Christmas album honorable mention: Christmastime by Michael W. Smith, Music of Christmas by Steven Curtis Chapman, Home for Christmas by Amy Grant

The absolute worst Christmas song ever: still “Grown Up Christmas List.”

Be Blessed

How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
– Psalm 84:5

The one who trusts God, who finds strength in God, whose heart is seeking God, moving toward His presence, is blessed.

God strengthens those who trust Him. He gives life and protection, grace and glory, joy and blessing. He makes our sorrow life-giving. He hears our prayers. He withholds nothing good from the person who trusts Him.

Do you find this kind of joy in God’s presence? Do you long for it this way? Do you long like this for worship? God strengthens us when we trust Him, but we don’t always trust Him. Why don’t we trust Him?

 

We often grow embittered, angry, sorrowful, allow our attitudes to be dictated by our circumstances because we don’t trust God. We lose the desire to be in His presence, the joy of worshipping Him, of being with Him because we don’t trust Him as we should.

We need His strength, His grace, His protection, His glory, all the good things He gives to those who trust Him, who seek Him, who truly spend time in His presence. Therefore, we need to seek Him first, to trust Him above all.

Lord God, please change our wills so that we want to trust You at all times and in all things, so that we seek Your presence above all.

It is only by Jesus’ grace and sacrifice that we’re even able to come into God’s presence, to receive His great blessings.

Magnify

Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
And let those who love Your salvation say continually,
“Let God be magnified.”
But I am afflicted and needy;
Hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O LORD, do not delay.
Psalms‬ ‭70‬:‭4-5‬ NASB

Let those who seek God, who love His salvation, rejoice in Him and magnify Him. When they are in need and call on Him, He will come.

Though His timing is not always the same as ours, God helps those who seek Him, love His salvation, and magnify Him.

But we shouldn’t necessarily expect His help if I’m living in rebellion against Him.

Seek God. Rejoice in Him. Magnify Him. Call for His help when we are in need. Expect His help when we call.

He will help us when we’re in need if we truly seek Him at all times. He is worthy to be sought, to be rejoiced in, to be magnified.

Do you really seek God? Do you really love His salvation? Do you rejoice in Him? Magnify Him?

We are under attack. We do have an enemy, and we need God’s help against him.

We need to truly seek God. We need His grace to transform us. Then, we will seek God as He desires to be sought.

Relevant Worship

But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (‭John‬ ‭4‬:‭23-24‬ NASB)

God is no longer concerned about the place where you worship because worship is about more than location and prescribed rituals. God seeks worshipers who will worship Him from the heart under the initiation and guidance of the Spirit as informed by Scripture. This is the only real worship.

God seeks worshipers who will genuinely worship Him in a way that is initiated, guided, and empowered by the spirit and informed by His truth, His Word. He is not concerned about worship happening in a particular location. He is not interested in worship that is simply a rote reenactment of prescribed rituals that is not done in spirit and truth. In fact, because God is spirit, there is no other way to worship Him but in spirit and truth.

God seeks worshipers. Therefore, He initiates worship. He has allowed us the honor of worshiping Him.

But many of the things that concern us in worship are not important, not even relevant. What is relevant? The Spirit, His guidance, and the Word of God as it informs our worship. We must focus on these things.

When we forget these things, we go through the motions in our worship. Those of us who are worship leaders are sometimes just trying to get through a Sunday. We get overly concerned about all the details.

But what each of us needs, regardless of our role in corporate worship – whether leader or participant – is to focus our hearts on God’s Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we worship privately, we must begin with a focus on God’s Word and His Spirit. It doesn’t matter where we are or who we are.

It is not in our nature to be this kind of worshiper, but His grace can change our nature.

Father, let us be the kind of worshipers You seek.

Christmas | Worship Christ with Abandon

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭2:10-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

The magi were filled to overflowing with joy when the star finally showed them their destination. They went into the house and, seeing Jesus with His mother, they fell down and worshiped and then gave Him treasures of great value.

Jesus is worthy of our worship. He is more valuable than our most valuable treasures. Coming into His presence is cause for great joy.

He reaches out and leads people to worship Him.

Do you rejoice this way at the opportunity to come into His presence? Do you worship Him this way, giving Him the things that you value? Have you ever really placed enough value on Him to worship this way consistently, allowing this type of worship to become more natural?

Worship Christ with abandon because nothing – not your time, your life, your possessions – are as significant or as valuable as He is.

Do you approach worship as though it were routine or mundane? If we truly worship, we’re stepping into the presence of the Creator of the universe, the Savior of the human race, the King of all. This is the opportunity we receive when we receive the opportunity to worship Him. It ought to produce great joy in us because Christ is infinitely valuable, infinitely significant. And this joy, this recognition of His worth ought to lead us to want Him more than the things we treasure, to give Him what we treasure as a demonstration of the fact that He is more valuable, as a way to intensify that desire in myself.

Pray this way: “God, I do not treasure You above all, but in this moment, I truly do want to. Please change my heart. Please show me what I must do to ascribe the worth to You that You are due, to worship You as You ought to be worshiped.”

It’s by His grace that we are even afforded the opportunity to worship Him. It’s only by His grace that our hearts can be changed to treasure Him as He should be treasured, to sacrifice for the sake of worshiping Him.

Our Protector

But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;
Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For You have been my stronghold
And a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my strength, I will sing praises to You;
For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness.
(‭Psalm‬ ‭59‬:‭16-17‬ NASB)

No matter what anyone else does, let us sing of God’s strength and His lovingkindness because He’s always protected us before. Let us praise Him because He is our fortress, our strength, and He has always loved us and been kind to us.

God is strong. He protects His children. He loves us and is kind to us.

We are weak and in need of His protection and strength. We have an enemy from whom we need protection (though not necessarily a physical enemy as the psalmist’s was).

If we are His, God will protect us from our enemy. The psalmist praises God before he is protected, while he is in distress, because He knows who God is.

Even though we know He is strong enough, kind enough, and loves us enough to take care of us, we don’t always trust Him to. We are afraid.

Jesus’ sacrifice was the ultimate act of God’s lovingkindness. Couple that with His resurrection – He is strong enough to overcome death – and there is every reason to trust Him. There is no reason not to.

We need not fear because God is our strength. We need to have the courage that arises from faith. And in that courage we can joyfully sing the praises of God, our protector.